When I think of my workplace, feminism comes to mind

Priyal Kanabar

by , Customer Insights Manager

at PensionBee

27 Apr 2022 /  

Two women looking at a laptop together

I have the immense privilege of working in an environment with people who champion equality, and recognise that women have been disadvantaged by our socio-economic structures for too long.

My colleagues, of whom half are women - with 67% representation at board level - consistently take action to drive forward this equality. PensionBee is unusually diverse compared to the rest of the Technology industry, where 80% of workers are male, and women hold only 5% of leadership positions.

We believe that everyone benefits from gender equality, and our CTO, Jonathan Lister Parsons, alongside our CEO, Romi Savova are huge advocates for this. This makes coming to work incredibly meaningful, and is why, when I think of my workplace, feminism comes to mind.

But when I say we embrace feminism at PensionBee, what do I really mean? Well, recently we’ve learnt and focused on four main business areas.

Including women’s data

Most of the world is designed using men’s data, from medicines to cars, to the retirement savings system, men’s needs and preferences have shaped the world around us. However, this needs to change so women can enjoy better lives and happy retirements.

Last year, PensionBee started working with specialist diversity and inclusion communications consultancy, More Diverse Voices, on consumer workshops. We delved deep into women’s experiences to understand barriers to saving for retirement through focus groups, individual interviews, and surveys. We invited female customers and non-customers to help us reimagine the pension system for women.

We know it’s not enough to simply collect women’s data, organisations need to use it too. Diverse teams, along with data, can ensure that products and services are inclusive and consumers don’t suffer from the blind spots of biased teams. That’s why this project has influenced product and marketing ideas that we’re planning to take forward into this year and beyond.

Data-driven, internal policies that promote equality are fundamental to growing diverse teams. For example, PensionBee offers gender-inclusive paid leave to all new parents. Research supports that this can make a huge impact in eliminating the gender pension gap by encouraging men and women to share childcare and unpaid work equally from the very beginning, giving women more space to participate in paid work and continue their careers.

Embracing intersectionality

To build truly inclusive products, organisations should look beyond data about gender. PensionBee’s Senior Finance Manager, Ginola lead a talk during Black History Month, in which she advocated for embracing intersectionality, a lens for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.

At PensionBee, we’re blessed to work with colleagues that strongly believe in social inclusion and who strive to build it, both within the pensions industry and beyond. We have 51% representation of women, while 40% of the PensionBee team self-identify as belonging to a minority ethnic group, on par with representation in London, which at the last census, was the most ethnically diverse region in England and Wales. When it comes to socio-economic backgrounds, 31% of our colleagues were eligible for free school meals, compared to 15% of the UK population.

Building and maintaining diversity, in addition to bringing an intersectional lens to our data analysis, is a central point in our mission to become even more inclusive as a pension provider.

Engaging with the industry and regulators

In order to increase the impact of our work so far, we chose to engage with two Financial Conduct Authority Consultations which looked at diversity and inclusion in the financial sector and within listed companies.

Our asks for the regulator included setting more ambitious targets, defining diversity through personal characteristics (such as gender, race, and sexual orientation) rather than personality type and thinking styles, and requiring firms to disclose company-wide data annually through the Workforce Disclosure Initiative (WDI). The WDI questionnaire is the most detailed and comprehensive measurement that currently exists and can expedite progress if all firms complete the survey, particularly if they publish responses on their websites and in their annual reports. This can demonstrate progress over time, and enable stakeholders to hold firms accountable.

With a desire to learn from our peers, we also brought our ideas to various networks such as the Diversity Project, The Social Mobility Commission, and the Fintech Delivery Panel.

Creating dialogues and safe spaces

One of the ongoing initiatives we’re most proud of is our ‘PensionBee Speaks’ series, which provides the opportunity for colleagues, or friends of PensionBee, to lead talks on issues that are close to their hearts and simultaneously raise awareness around the topic. These have included anti-racist and anti-sexist hiring, the body positivity movement, and campaigning for abortion rights in Ireland’s historic 2018 referendum.

By empowering employees to speak up, we’re collectively building PensionBee’s culture, rather than pressuring colleagues to conform to a dominant culture set by the board. Not only does this give our team a greater sense of ownership of our workplace, but it also shapes and influences the direction of our company.

I have a conviction that, despite setbacks, quiet revolutions are happening throughout the world, and collectively we’re moving closer to a world where girls and women can enjoy equal levels of agency and advantage as men. There is much more work to be done, and I look forward to playing my small part, along with my colleagues at PensionBee, where we’ll work even harder to make UK pensions simple and inclusive of all.

We believe that everyone benefits from gender equality. Find out how we’re striving to ensure that we build equality into the heart of our workplace.

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